How climate change is affecting the Manning Valley - a conversation with Dr Jim Frazier, OAM

Environmental advocate: Through his work as a wildlife cinematographer Dr Jim Frazier OAM has seen alarming changes in our environment.

Environmental advocate: Through his work as a wildlife cinematographer Dr Jim Frazier OAM has seen alarming changes in our environment.

There’s something not right with the environment.

This is the uneasy thought that I’m left with after a summer reporting on the extremely rare Manning River Helmeted Turtle which was recently declared endangered, the deaths of thousands of baby grey-headed flying foxes in Wingham, a major fish kill in the Nowendoc River and, more recently, the arrival of a flock of corellas that has become part of the Taree CBD.

I sat down to talk with Dr Jim Frazier OAM, initially to find out more about the corellas and why they are in Taree. The chat quickly turned to a much wider, ‘big picture’ focus.

Bootawa resident Dr Frazier is best known for his work as a cinematographer for a number of David Attenborough’s documentary series. He invented the Frazier infinity lens while making the cult classic Cane Toads: an unnatural history – and it was a lens that revolutionised film making internationally.

He has won many awards, including an Oscar and an Emmy. He is also a naturalist, artist and the founder of the Symphony of the Earth environmental organisation. 

Jim often says that travelling the world for years filming nature, he has received a unique view that the rest of us cannot see. He has seen changes to the environment over the decades that fill him with alarm.

Corellas are not the only new birds on the block. Jim has heard the ringing chimes of a bellbird at Bootawa, and a family living on Youngs Road at Wingham told me they have also heard a bellbird on their property.

“I haven’t heard them there now for a couple of weeks. The fact that they were down there is quite unusual,” Jim says.

I questioned why bellbirds, which are usually only found higher up in the mountains in thick forests, would be starting to be heard locally.

We’ve lost 53 per cent of all plants and animals of this earth and it’s going downhill rapidly. - Dr Jim Frazier OAM

“The bellbirds’ movement could be anything from deforestation to extending their range, I don’t know. But I got a surprise when they were there!” Jim says.

“I’ve also noticed, at particular times of the year we get certain birds visiting - there’s a lot of stuff that is transitory – but this year they’ve hung on, or not arrived at all. The koel is one, and then the drongo.

“King parrots are down in numbers here too. And I’ve noticed the crimsons dropping off in numbers.

“I’ll go right off the rails here and say there’s a lot of wildlife movement around, and it’s chiefly because of climate change,” Jim says.

“I think not only will we see colder winters here but we’ll see hotter summers. It was 46 in the shade at home this summer, God knows what it would have been in the sun. And that’s severe. We had plants burn during that that have never seen scorching before.

“People tend to take it in their stride but they don’t realise the catastrophic outcome that climate change is going to do. It is dramatic, and it will cause the lack of species and the movement - that’s why we’ve seen these movements.”

It’s not just the wildlife that is affected.

“Karl Beyer told me about five weeks ago now there was a jacaranda flowering in Taree - full flower in March. And we’re seeing stuff flowering at my place now that shouldn’t be flowering at this time of year.

“The plants are confused. And I even saw birds nesting and mating last week which is way out of kilter,” Jim says.

And while on the subject of nesting birds, Jim says one way we can all help is to provide nesting boxes for our native birds. A lack of hollow trees is a huge problem, Jim says, as people have a propensity for chopping them down for safety and aesthetic reasons.

“We’ve lost 53 per cent of all plants and animals of this earth and it’s going downhill rapidly. And this is my concern with Symphony of the Earth and future generations.

“And I would go so far as to say if we lose birds, we lose earth’s symphony. It’s the music of the earth.”

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